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2/5/2014
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Thomas Claburn
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Sochi Olympics 2014: 10 Technologies In Spotlight

From innovations for athletes to unprecedented surveillance tools for authorities, look at the technologies that will shape the Sochi Olympics.
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The 2014 Winter Olympics, scheduled to begin Feb. 7 in Sochi, Russia, will test both athletes and technology. For the competitors, the nature of the competition remains much as it always has been: an extreme physical and mental challenge. But the athletes' tools will be different, thanks to ongoing research and new approaches to the various winter sports at the games.

Competitors will be looking to their equipment for a performance edge. Uniforms and other gear have been designed and engineered to minimize friction and aerodynamic drag. And efforts to keep athletes healthy and to repair their injuries are pushing the boundaries of medical technology.

For Olympic officials, their Russian hosts, security personnel, representatives of media organizations, and individuals attending the games, technology will also shape the event.

Sochi 2014 will be the surveillance Olympics. Attendees "will face some of the most invasive and systematic spying and surveillance in the history of the Games," reported The Guardian last fall, noting that Russia's FSB security service plans to monitor all communications in and around Sochi. But given what's become known about the reach of US intelligence agencies, the FSB's surveillance plan may evoke a sense of déjà vu.

There will be drones, facial recognition systems, patrol boats equipped to warn of underwater attackers, and extensive network monitoring. In recent days, US and Russian officials have been discussing whether the US is willing to assist with security by providing technology to jam signals that might be used to detonate remote bombs.

Russia's security concerns are hardly unique for an Olympic event -- some 13,500 British troops were deployed to protect the London 2012 games -- nor are they without reason: As the State Department notes in its warning to Sochi travelers, there have been recent terror incidents in the Russian city of Volgograd and a regional terrorist group, Caucasus Emirates, withdrew prior directions to not attack the Winter Olympics.

However, the watchful eye of the authorities takes on a more sinister aspect in light of Russia's recent law banning "propaganda" that promotes non-traditional relationships and its suppression of investigative reporting.

The games themselves depend on technology, not just for timing, scorekeeping, and communication, but to assure the presence of adequate amounts of snow: The ski runs around Sochi will be targeted by about 400 snowmaking cannons and swaths of snow will preserved beneath thermal insulation blankets.

Let the games begin and let the technology do more good than harm. 

Image source: Olympic.org

Thomas Claburn is editor-at-large for InformationWeek. He has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and his mobile game Blocfall Free is available for iOS, Android, and Kindle Fire.

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WKash
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WKash,
User Rank: Author
2/7/2014 | 4:44:35 PM
Re: Room Service
Too bad we didn't send along a few tech writers to join the sports writers in Sochi.  Who knows what we might learn.
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
2/6/2014 | 12:20:16 PM
Re: Room Service
Those tweets -- and pictures -- are worrisome. If they're struggling to complete the basics like hotels and running water, it's hard to imagine how its infrastructure could hold up.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
2/5/2014 | 4:39:36 PM
Re: Supersuit and wearable tech
That would be interesting, though I wonder if it would be meaningful (as opposed to just a matter of curiosity). Would heartbeat, pulse, etc correlate with victory or would it be too far removed from the final result to offer guidance in how an athlete was actually doing?
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
2/5/2014 | 2:08:41 PM
Injury healing tech
Great slideshow that sets the scene for the games. The facial recognition device is a revelation but also scary. How soon before that's at every American airport? If that L-C Ligament product can reduce the healing time of an ACL or MCL injury by half that'll be a total game-changer (pun intended) especially in pro football.
WKash
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WKash,
User Rank: Author
2/5/2014 | 1:31:32 PM
Room Service
Interesting glimpse of technology's presence at the games.  Judging by the initial tweets of journalists arriving at Sochi, however, it sounds like the housing infrastructure at the games is about as ready as the HealthCare.gov was, with many rooms lacking in even the basics -- water, light bulbs, and a Wi-Fi connection.

 
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
2/5/2014 | 11:53:28 AM
Supersuit and wearable tech
A practical use of wearable tech: sensors in the supersuit. I think it would be neat to see real-time vitals and stats when the athletes compete: speed, heart rate, acceleration, stride, etc.
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